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Maryland State Technical Committee

Maryland State Technical Committee

January 18, 2012

Meeting called to order by Tansel Hudson.

Tansel had everyone introduce themselves and then turned the meeting over to Tom Morgart.

Tom gave everyone the following quick update on the CSP hearings:

The National Appeals Hearing Officer issued the results of the hearing which upheld NRCS’ decision to terminate the CSP contracts. It is quite possible there will be ongoing appeals.

Lynn Hoot gave some additional information based on feedback from the field.

Tom turned the meeting over for Committee Reports.

  1. Forestry Subcommittee report presented by Dan Rider

The US Forest Service should hear in May if successful – money used to hire 3 forestry technicians to do Farm Bill work.

Maryland Forestry standards have incorporated NRCS standards and tree farm standards. A Stewardship Plan will make forest projects eligible to participate in third party programs.

  1. Nutrient Subcommittee report presented by Bill Angstadt.

Several issues have evolved regarding resources to do CNMPs, we have significant resources as of December 1, 2011 MDE had 113 qualified and 21 modifications. We should have enough resources to meet the needs.

Revised National 590 Standards published in December will possibly be discussed at April meeting, or a teleconference. The nutrient locking tool is the risk assessment tool designated as a risk tool. Maryland nutrient standards and 590 requirements currently in flux, we have until January 2013 to get in line.

  • Watershed Initiative plan drafted Whip II – NRCS tiered 590 practice. We need definitions since this is the first time in Maryland.
  • CB Ag work group will be dealing with definitions for final WIP II.
  • National Association Conservation Districts report is finalized and delivered to Chief White.
  • EPA came out with draft Chesapeake Bay reporting form.
  • Bay CEAP – second round of Chesapeake Bay CEAP, enumerators are doing landowner interviews to expand the CEAP study. The new Sparrow updates for CB are of interest to our group.
  • Announced by Secretary Vilsack, a “certainty” MOU with EPA and Minnesota. Producers who undertake a substantial level of conservation activities to reduce nutrient run-off and erosion will receive assurance from the state that their farms will meet Minnesota’s water quality standards and goals during the life of the agreement..
  1. Outreach Subcommittee presented by Genevieve Backus

Genevieve Backus – We have had several news releases

  • USDA Announces Ranking Dates for Four Major Conservation Initiatives o On-Farm Energy, Organic, Seasonal High Tunnel and Air Quality
  • Deadline for USDA Conservation Innovation Grant Pre-Proposals January 31 (CIG)
  • 012 Conservation Easement Applications Due February 10 (FRPP)
  • Conservation Programs Deadline Approaching (Farm Bill Conservation)
  • USDA Extends Conservation Stewardship Program Sign-Up to January 27 (CSP)
  • USDA Announces Funding for Water Quality Markets, Seeks Proposals for Projects $10 Million Available for Projects Nationally (CIG)

We also had a guest column in the Delmarva Farmer; forestry article in the Maryland Extension Newsletter. 2011 Maryland NRCS Conservation Update has been updated.

Rob McAfee introduced himself in his new capacity as Assistance State Conservationist fo rField Operations. He also introduced Buddy Bowling as State Outreach Coordinator and Peg Althoff as State Agronomist.

Questions:

Bil Angstadt- Regarding nutrient management and underserved areas will we still be identifying and working with them.

Rob - Yes

Lynn Hoot – Is there a possibility of publishing in more widespread papers i.e. the Sun etc.

Genevieve – We are trying to get them to publish us, we send them the news releases, they just don’t publish them.

Bill – Possible interesting story about how we are already meeting 2025 goals?

Lynn – suggested we approach the papers a different way, perhaps with a story instead of a news release.

  1. Soils Update by Amanda Moore

CEAP- Landowner surveys are not being completed as widely as we hoped, but surveys are still coming in for Maryland; we don’t have 100% response yet.

There will be a soils webinar February 23, on the K Factor. If well-attended, more Soils webinars will be held on various topics.

Bill – CEAP Report can we double the data?

Amanda is hoping more information will come in – the enumerators are working on it and Amanda hopes the responses will pick up. The Delmarva Farmer did an article on this, maybe this will help people to pick up the phone.

Bill asked Tom to keep an eye on the deadline, and maybe we need to extend.

Action item: Determine if we need to extend the deadline for the enumerators.

  1. Programs Update by Tom Morgart, Mikel Williams and Tiffany Davis

Tom Morgart – The budget has been received and we can fill a few vacancies. Three positions have been filled by Mikel Williams Hawkins, Peg Althoff and Buddy Bowling.

Mikel Williams Hawkins showed a power point presentation on the following topics:

  • EQIP Update (Mikel)
    Mikel provided an overview of how the national EQIP initiatives and Conservation Activity Plans (CAPs) will assist producers. We currently have nine CAPs available, but not required.

• CIG Update (Tom)

  • We have a January 31 deadline for National CIG. Also, a CIG specific to Water Quality Markets has $5 million set aside for Chesapeake Bay Watershed projects.
  • We are trying to determine if there is any interest in State CIG – Tom asked if the group would be interested in offering. Tom thinks it is effective. The state CIG is up to 5% of current year EQIP funding.

Discussion:

Bill asked what the focus will be or how focused we want it to be.

Tom asked the group how focused they think it should be, how do we want to set the focus.

Lynn suggested pre-proposals and asked if we need to do more outreach.

Bill thinks it should be very specific.

Tom suggested four proposals @ $75,000 each since $300,000 was earmarked. He then asked if anyone would like to sit on a review panel.

There was further discussion on Sparrow using 1990 data, the water quality market and Amanda stated that this issue has a high priority with HQ.

Action item: Set up a panel to review proposals.

Tom – CCPI – no national new projects under CBWI.

Bill asked if nutrient management was protected. Tom said that we have no guidance yet.

Tansel called a 15 minute break @ 10:05

Tansel opened the meeting at 10:20.

Tom – National Water Quality Initiative - each state must identify one to three 12-digit HUC watersheds that are on the 303d list. 5% of EQIP funds must be used in the selected watershed(s). Further guidance will be forthcoming.

Question to the group – We need a group to help identify a watershed that will meet most of the critera and possibly take new SPARROW data into consideration.

Action item: New Committee Lynn Hoot, Al Rizzo and Amy Jacobs, there will also be NRCS staff added, possibly Amanda.

Discussion – It may be possible to find this in Howard County since Bill Ensor has done most of the door to door. Another possibility could be Baltimore County since they are getting ready to go door to door.

  • Crop Land to Pasture Land Update (Mikel) Everything is still the same, but new national guidance is forthcoming.
  • State Technical made phone calls and national headquarters will be issuing more guidance on converting cropland to pastureland.

Discussion: Eric Hines mentioned an article that discussed this topic.

Action item: Genevieve will get a copy of the article to review.

  • Cover Crop Update (Mikel)
    Mikel’s slide presentation covered the management practices.

Tom explained that we are still paying for cover crops but the farmer will have to follow the guidelines outlined in Mikel’s presentation and go up to a higher level quality of cover up each year. The Energy Initiative requires a legume or a legume mix for cover crop.

  • CBWI (Mikel)
    The slide presentation outlined the priority resource concerns and eligible core and supporting conservation practices.

Under the core conservation practices – everything contracted should have a nutrient aspect.

Tom stated that the ranking criteria remain the same as last year.

  • Regional Payment Update (Tom) Errors have been corrected and final reviews are being done. The payment schedule is in draft and will be forthcoming.

Question: Are we limiting acres? (Bill)

Tom explained that there will be no acre limit, but there will be a payment limit of $50,000 for the life of the nutrient management contract.

  • WHIP Update (Tom) No wildlife habitat money or guidance yet.
  • CSP Update (Tom) CSP allocation has been received. We are currently paying last year’s contracts. The 2012 first round sign up has been extended to January 27, 2012.
  • AMA will offer high tunnels and supporting practices, same as last year.
  • FRPP Update (Tiffany) The application due date is February 10, 2012. Entities should get applications in as soon as possible since the funding is down from last year.
  • WRP Update (Tiffany) We closed on two easements so far this year and will close on one in a couple of weeks. The easement compensation rates are the same as last year. We received $6.2 million in WRP funds broken down as $4.2 million for enrollment and acquisition activities and $2 million for restoration improvements.

We may possibly be out of funds after the first round of funding but will continue with batching applications received in March and April to give us a backlog like we had last year.

  • GRP Update (Tiffany) We were approved to use $5,000 as the rate cap for easement compensation. However, we did not receive GRP money this year. We are still taking applications. If we have applications, Tiffany can ask NHQ for funding.

Discussion: Surface miners are interested in this, but their AGI is too high.

AGI – Tiffany was not a waiver of any AGI waivers granted by the Chief for GRP, but we will always take applications and try to get them approved. FSA will do most of the eligibility, we give assistance so FSA would also need to waive AGI.

Action item: Tiffany will ask NHQ to see if an AGI waiver can be requested.

Tom outlined Jon’s 2012 plans – “implement, implement, implement”. We are developing a strategy to get the slower to implement farmers to move forward. We are asking the field employees to review the contracts and complete or cancel. We are advising against allowing contact modifications. The famers need to implement so that the contracts can be completed.

WRP – the same – close and restore.

Tiffany- Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) sign-up was announced at the national level. Partners may submit proposals to Tiffany Davis for the State Conservationist’s review and recommendation for consideration at the national level. Up to $15 million in financial assistance funds or $2 million in technical assistance is available nation-wide.

New Business

  • Revised 590 Standard

Bill – who will adapt the national standard for Maryland?

Steve – the staff writes the draft based on National 590 Standards, the committee reviews – we may convene a group to review.

Bill – Can Nutrient Subcommittee be included?

Action item: Tom will take it under advisement that the Nutrient Subcommittee would like to be included in the group reviewing the 590 Standards.

Aimee – The Potomac Conservancy has a part-time Absentee Landowner Advisor position available. This person will be the primary face with the landowners.

Steve – there are new conservation cover mixes included in an addendum to National Standard Maryland 327, now available on eFOTG.

The next meeting will be April 18th.

At this time Tansel asked for any additional questions or comments, there being none the meeting was adjourned.

Meeting adjourned at 11:25.